Brisbane: Alastair Cook has fanned the flames for what could be a heated Ashes contest by saying his England squad has nothing to fear against Australia.
The Australians haven't lost a Test at the Gabba in 25 years, and haven't lost a Test to England at the Brisbane venue since 1986, but Cook's memories from the last series here are positive ones.
"There's no reason to feel intimidated. A lot of players in the squad we have this year were here in 2010-11 so we've all got experience of winning in Australia and we're trying to use that to the best of our ability," Cook told a news conference on Wednesday, the eve of the first Ashes Test. "Australia has a very good record in Brisbane, it's our job to try and change that.
"We certainly don't fear anyone. That's quite clear to see (in the way) we go about our business."
Cook plundered an unbeaten 235 in England's massive second innings in the drawn first Test here in 2010. The English went on to win that series - their first on Australian soil in 24 years - to retain the urn and then they defended it at home again only a few months ago.
Having won four the last five Ashes contests dating back to 2005 - when they broke Australia's eight-series domination - the English are hoping to win a fourth consecutive Ashes title for the first time since the 1880s.
Cook thinks that if anyone has anything to fear in the first Test, it's Michael Clarke's Australians.
"We spoke about something like this at Lord's in 2009 ... we hadn't beaten Australia for something like 70-odd years at Lord's," Cook said of cracking Australia's Gabba fortress. "We made a real conscious effort to try and change that.
"This side has done that a number of times - when there's been specific challenges, we've delivered."
Apart from uncertainty over the fitness of wicketkeeper Matt Prior, who hurt his calf muscle in a warmup match, the England squad is settled after three tour matches. In terms of selections, Chris Tremlett is expected to get the third seamers spot ahead of Steve Finn and Boyd Rankin to support Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, while Michael Carberry is tipped to open with Cook.
Prior had fitness Tests on Wednesday and was expected to be OK, with Cook saying the England selectors would likely make a call on his inclusion before match day.
Two players will hit personal milestones in Brisbane, with controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen playing his 100th Test for England, while Brad Haddin will earn his 50th Test cap for Australia.
The buildup to the last Ashes series was overshadowed by the turmoil in the Australian camp, after South African Mickey Arthur was fired as coach and replaced by Darren Lehmann, and David Warner was suspended after a night club incident involving rival batsman Joe Root. The squad never seemed to recover and lost 3-0, but is outwardly showing signs of confidence ahead of a home series.
"We've played a lot more cricket now as a group. The five Test matches in England really helped us - the result didn't help us - but helped us learn more about each other," Clarke said. "It would be silly to compare where we were then compared with where we are now. Different series, different conditions."
Warner has returned after scoring hundreds in domestic cricket, and Shane Watson overcame a hamstring injury to take his place at the top of the order and provide some backup to fast bowlers Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Mitch Johnson.
Clarke said he knows his batting lineup from No. 1-7, but won't reveal it until after the starting XI is announced before the toss. That will more than likely include George Bailey making his Test debut at No. 6. The only uncertainty in the XI seems to be whether Australia will play spinner Nathan Lyon or go for another pace option with allrounder James Faulkner.
The Australians haven't won any of their last nine Tests but, under Lehmann's stewardship, have been marshaling their resources.
Clarke said "the belief is there" that the Australians can win.
Rival players have traded barbs in the media in recent days, with Pietersen and Broad having plenty to say for England, and Warner firing salvos from Australia.
Broad is destined to be the villain for Australian crowds, after his controversial decision not to walk despite knowing he was out at a crucial juncture during the last series and the subsequent censure of Lehmann for his comments in a radio interview following that incident.
That doesn't bother Cook.
"He's an in-your-face kind of cricketer, and I like that about him," Cook said of his pace spearhead. "He's got the ability to change games very quickly. He's had a good preparation. He looks in fine fettle with the ball and he's ready to go."
Australia (from): David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, James Faulkner.
England (from): Alastair Cook (captain), Michael Carberry, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Chris Trimlett, Jimmy Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Steven Finn, Boyd Rankin.
Umpires: Aleem Dar, Pakistan, and Kumar Dharmasena, Sri Lanka.
Third umpire: Marais Erasmus, South Africa. ICC match referee: Jeff Crowe, New Zealand.